The Sony Xperia Z is now out and about! Its hard to remember the last time Sony produced a real challenger for “best in class” smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, they have been making solid handsets for years, just without the spectacle of some of the other brands we have become accustomed to. However I can say with a high degree of certainty that all of this is changing. Last week we got our grubby hands on their shiny new 4G smartphone for our Sony Xperia Z Review, to give it the once over and really put it through its paces. At a glance, the Xperia Z is something totally different from what we’d expect from those bods over at Sony.

Sony Xperia Z Review

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Looking at the handset, you can see they’ve ditched their previous form factors and followed industry suit for the Xperia Z in producing a thin, flat slab of tech with toughened glass on both the front and back. Gone are those rounded corners, the plastic look and feel and, most noticeably, the old Sony Ericcson logo has been replaced with the more stylish and sleek Sony logo. That being said, its not a small phone – 139x71x81mm, 146g heavy and a 5 inch screen. If you struggled with a Galaxy SIII or were scared off by the Note II, then this might be a little too much for you to handle.

However, like some of the best boxers, its size and weight mean it packs one seriously heavy punch. Under the hood, the Xperia Z boasts a 1.5GHz quadcore Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, with 3GB RAM and 16GB of onboard storage which can be expanded with an SD card. I am a fan of the Antutu benchmarking system, and gave the phone a few chances after killing off its various processes and apps. For me, it’s best score was 19,250 – although others are reporting something topping 20,000. This is pretty damned impressive however you look at it, given that it obliterates the Galaxy SIII, Nexus 4 and HTC One X (although is more comparably to the Butterfly). Since its release, the new HTC One knocked the Sony Xperia Z down a peg though. Although not being the top performer out there anymore, the best thing about this phone is its display.

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When the phone was unveiled, it was said that it brings together the ‘best of Sony’. Thinking about that statement, I thought of the old Walkman, my TV and the music company. Well, they’ve pulled the screens off of their best TV’s, shrunk them to 5 inches and put them on this phone. The 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display is vibrant, bright and richly colourful with 443ppi (which kicks Apple’s ‘Retina’ screen square in the nuts). It’ll be hard to imagine another smartphone release in 2013 that will have such an impressive screen. Sony phone releases in the past all tended to have a gimmick to them, whether it was a light band, being the thinnest phone or even its walkman features, something they have mostly ditched now for the Xperia Z.

Xperia Z in water

Having said it is gimmick free, it is worth noting that it does have something to make it quite different to its closest competitors. The Sony Xperia Z is water resistant to 1m for up to 30 minutes. We tried it, we tested it, we popped it into video mode and recorded the dunking. It worked exceptionally well, so should make the phone a little more life proof. And whilst we don’t condone such actions, sneaky underwater bikini shots should be a doddle. The phone has various inputs and outputs (Micro USB, 3.5mm jack, mini-HDMI out, micro-SD) that are covered by covers which snap in to place to prevent the dust or water getting in. These are handy little covers, but seem potential pocket hazards when listening to music with the phone in your pocket.

Also pulling in the ‘best of Sony’ is its ability to interact with Sony devices surrounding it. It comes with NFC capabilities which, with the right hardware, enable easy passing of media to speaker systems and to new TVs, to seamlessly pass your viewing or listening experience on with the simple touch of your phone (taking a page out of the LG Optimus play book). This is a great feature if you have or are intending to spend big on a Sony home environment.

The camera on the Xperia Z, once again, pulls in some ‘best of Sony’. Although taking a few seconds to launch (surprising given its hardware), it provides some excellent pictures. A 13.1 megapixel back camera and a host of useful software functions enable easy snaps. One of its best features is its ability to take good quality photos in low light – so now your drunken club night photos won’t be as blurry as your memory.

So what do we think of the new Sony Xperia Z?

It takes great photos, it plays games well, and it feels good in your hand if you can get passed the size. It has a wonderfully nice design, with right angles and a good clean finish, although a warning to you – that clean finish won’t last for long as it is a finger print magnet. The battery doesn’t cope well with heavy usage either, but there is an inbuilt system to manage this. Oh but the screen… it makes your pictures, videos and movies look fantastic! Games look great on it also. The loud speaker on the Xperia Z feels like an after thought, its not loud or well placed. Still, this is a good looking, solid phone that has some real power behind its lovely screen. It doesn’t come with the latest version of Android, which is a disappointment, but expect this to change imminently. It is available now, sim free from around £450.

Water resistant

A bit of an own goal: if you pre-ordered it you could be on the receiving end of a lovely set of Sony headphones worth over £200 – which are built for the iPod and won’t work with your new phone… Oops.

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